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Iranian Human Rights

Hon. Linda Frum: Honourable senators, in an article published by The Hill Times yesterday, we learned that government officials recently returned from Tehran having concluded a second set of talks with Iran this year. This government has made it clear that it has no qualms about engaging with a regime that is responsible for murdering its political opponents and those accused of drug offences, same-sex relations, apostasy and blasphemy. Journalism bloggers in Iran are jailed and tortured for exercising their right to freedom of speech. Women prisoners are routinely raped by their guards.

To the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I ask: What is your government doing to raise awareness about these crimes, and can you confirm for this chamber that diplomatic relations with the Iranian regime will not resume until we see a significant improvement in that country’s human rights record?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for her question and for her vigilance on these matters.

Let me simply repeat that it is the view of the Government of Canada that it is better to engage our adversaries than to ignore them. To that end, the government has sought opportunities to meet with and engage representatives of the Government of Iran, to speak frankly and clearly about our concerns as a government, to speak frankly and clearly with Iran with respect to what it would take to resume a fuller diplomatic engagement. But let us not confuse diplomatic recognition or diplomatic engagement below that threshold with lack of bringing forward the interests of Canada.

We engage with countries to advance the interests of Canada, and all senators will know that issues of human rights are in Canada’s interest.

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